Gardening: Planting hits purple patch

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ERICAS or heaths make a spectacular swath of purple, beloved by visitors to Scotland.

Erica darleyensis pink presents a great winter display.
Erica darleyensis pink presents a great winter display.
They are also indigenous throughout the Mediterranean region and Southern Europe. They like the same growing conditions as other acid-loving plants such as daphne, azaleas, rhododendrons and most native plants.

Similarly they like a similar organic mulch such as Canberra Organic Mulch, from Canberra Sand and Gravel.

Alternatively, another favourite mulch of mine for acid-loving plants is rotted down pine needles. Simply scrape back the loose needles on top to get to the good stuff. Hence they make an ideal companion planting with native plants. Ericas grow happily either in full sun or filtered shade and, like most plants, prefer a well-drained soil. They will not tolerate heavy clay or water logging.

Here are some suggestions for your consideration. I say some because, for example, “Hillier’s Manual of Trees and Shrubs” lists no less than 130 varieties.

Here are some tried-and-tested varieties that I know will grow well locally, starting with the long-time favourite Erica darleyensis pink form, pictured here, that I used at the front entrance when I designed the gardens at the National Film and Sound Archive.

It is a very compact form and is ideal for growing as a low hedge along the edge of paths. This makes a colourful alternative to the ubiquitous box hedging. I find the pink form flowers much better than the white form.

IMG_3066 (1) (1)
Delightful pink and white flowers of Erica carnea “Pink Pearl”.
Other varieties include Erica cerinthoides with long stems topped with soft pink flowers. This grows to 60cm high with a similar spread. E. carnea “Pink Pearl” of a similar size and colour looks superb in a bold group combined with E. carnea “Ruby Glow”. By bold, as with all shrubs, I mean that they look most effective in groups of three, five or seven.

The name of E. “Raspberry Ripple” was influenced by one of Britain’s favourite ice creams of the same name. In flower, it looks good enough to eat!

Possibly one of the most floriferous is E. melanthera that, when covered in its rich purple flowers, hardly a green leaf can be seen. Certainly one of my favourites, but do not let that influence you, check it out at the garden centres.


I RECOMMEND the end of August as the ideal time to prune roses. Some look forward to the task with trepidation, especially if new to rose growing.

There is a solution – attend the Horticultural Society of Canberra’s free rose-pruning demonstration at 1 Spence Place, Hughes,1pm-3pm, on Sunday, August 11. This is open to the public and do wear warm clothes. This garden belongs to June and John Woodfield, one of Australia’s champion dahlia growers. You will see many other items of interest in this garden.


I OFTEN receive queries regarding leaf drop on evergreen plants. All plants whether evergreen or deciduous drop leaves. Interestingly, I also receive requests when designing gardens for plants that do not drop leaves. Well, plastic plants will solve the problem! On evergreen plants, as the new leaves develop the older leaves at the base of the stems turn yellow and drop. It is not caused by a disease or insects. I liken it to a snake periodically shedding its skin. This is particularly noticeable on Daphne plants.


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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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